Last Saturday I sat, coffee in hand, looking through a local website’s classifieds section for a nanny. “CPR certified nanny fluent in three languages with 10 years’ experience seeks new family,” one ad read. “Do we want a sitter who’s CPR certified?” I asked my husband. He looked at me quizzically. “Well, yes. Of course.” Then it occurred to me that neither of us is CPR certified. I’m not even sure I could do the Heimlich correctly.
Seeking suitable child care, some parents scan the classifieds. Others solicit recommendations from friends or visit every daycare in a five-mile radius or enlist their relatives to watch the kids. Others still call on agencies to find them “The Best Nanny Money Can Buy.”
If you want someone who speaks Mandarin, cooks like a “Top Chef” contestant and knows how to catalog your art collection — on top of lovingly caring for your children, that is — it’s going to cost you, as much as $180,000 a year. That’s according to a now-infamous New York Times magazine article by Adam Davidson, of “Planet Money” fame.
Davidson’s piece has gone viral. I even got a call from my sister in Israel who joked that if she had known being a nanny was so lucrative, she never would have bothered getting her master’s in education.
We’ve become used to the gender roles in conventional war. The brave male soldiers march off to the battlefield, the women and children remain back at home, protected in their domestic routines. Or, in the alternative scenario, when the horror of war comes to civilian neighborhoods, life grinds to a halt, and the family huddles together for safety, fathers and mothers joining together to protect their children.
But this week, as the back-and-forth volleys between Israel and terror elements in Gaza stretched past the Purim holiday and the weekend into the work week, affecting more than a million citizens in southern Israel, there is a different reality. It is so different that Israel’s Homefront Command has coined a new term: “Emergency Routine” — a middle ground between a “State of Emergency” and business as usual.
In this so-called emergency routine situation, work goes on as usual – because the state doesn’t want the local economy to grind to a halt. However school is cancelled, because, even if a school is built with missile-proof materials, nobody wants to see a direct hit on a school full of children, and children are vulnerable as they walk or ride the bus to school. And so the question being asked in households across southern Israel, is ‘who’s going to stay home with the kids?’
Susan B. Anthony was born 192 years ago today; we share a birthday. I am 43. The late great suffragist once said: “Our job is not to make young women grateful. It’s to make them ungrateful so they keep going.” Much of my Jewish practice these days is about gratitude. But in light of our shared birthday this week, I’ve decided to dwell on some serious ingratitude.
I grew up in the 1970s listening to “Free to Be You and Me,” and singing joyfully that “Mommies Are People.” Who would have guessed, now that I’m one of those people, that the dilemmas my own working mother struggled with would become mine? In middle school, when I’d call home sick my mom would try to talk me into returning to class, so that she wouldn’t have to leave work or find a sitter. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’d do, too.
These days, the lack of affordable quality childcare options, combined with the continual calculation of income-to-babysitter-hours ratio, continues to make working parenthood — let’s face it, working motherhood primarily — a challenge, even for those of us who’ve got it good.